Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Soybean association alleges misuse of checkoff funds

Today's press release from the American Soybean Association (ASA), a private-sector trade association for the soybean industry:
"Serious ethical, legal, and financial allegations have been raised about how farmer checkoff funds and program activities are being conducted," said ASA President John Hoffman, a soybean producer from Waterloo, Iowa. "These significant allegations have caused ASA to ask the Inspector General to conduct an investigation and audit so that the basis of the allegations can be impartially investigated to find the truth."
Allegations include the improper and wasteful expenditure of both checkoff and federal funds; potential evasion of mandated salary and administrative spending caps by [the United Soybean Board (USB)]; conflicts of interests at USB; use of checkoff funds for prohibited purposes by USB; and wasteful and excessive spending by USB. There are additional allegations concerning improper USB oversight and tolerance of actions that have taken place at the [United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC)], an entity created by USB and ASA in October 2005. These allegations include improper conduct by a USSEC employee at USSEC functions; the firing of whistleblowers; improper employee relationships; contracting violations; management malfeasance and the inability of ASA Directors serving on USSEC Board to obtain an independent and objective investigation of the allegations.
See also links to the Association's longer summary (.pdf) of the controversy, and today's articles at AgricultureOnline and the Des Moines Register.

Similar to the checkoff programs for beef, pork, and dairy, the soybean checkoff program uses the federal government's powers of taxation to collect more than $100 million per year in mandatory assessments to support industry marketing and promotion efforts, but it is controversial with many producers.

These large and influential programs deserve greater attention than the minimal oversight they get from government authorities, public interest groups, and the major media.

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